Mar 28, 2006

Taiwan: China Missile Build-Up Points to Unifying Taiwan by Force

China's military modernisation is tilting the Taiwan Strait arms balance towards enabling Beijing to "achieve unification by force" with Taiwan, warns Japan's National Institute for Defence Studies
China's military modernisation is tilting the Taiwan Strait arms balance towards enabling Beijing to "achieve unification by force" with Taiwan, warns Japan's National Institute for Defence Studies.

"China is accelerating its military modernisation, especially in nuclear and missile capabilities, and it can be assumed that it is steadily accumulating experiences from drills with unifying Taiwan by force in mind," says the Japan Defence Agency's strategic policy unit in its East Asian Strategic Review.

The report, released yesterday, focuses closely on the strategic risks of China's rapid military expansion and echoes sharpening US warnings about the China-Taiwan arms imbalance.

Earlier this month, senior Pentagon official Peter Rodman suggested, without giving any details, that the US would take steps to restore the balance.

"Our job is to maintain a military balance in the region and we take our responsibility seriously," he told reporters after telling a congressional committee that China now had more than 700 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan and the number was growing by about 100 weapons annually.

Although Japan's constitution prevents its forces from becoming directly involved in an altercation over Taiwan, the US military bases in Japan under their alliance would be critical factors in a confrontation between the Americans and Chinese over the quasi-independent island.

The NIDS report is likely to further irritate the Beijing Government, which objects to Washington and Tokyo making the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue a shared regional objective.

China insists the "renegade province" is an internal issue.

It also suspects elements in the Japanese Koizumi Government of surreptitiously encouraging provocative independence gestures by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian.

As well as strengthening ballistic and cruise missile batteries menacing Taiwan, the NIDS report cites China's acquisition of Russian Sukhoi fighters and invasion-focused military exercises including, the agency asserts, the first large-scale China-Russia exercise around the Shandong Peninsula in August.

However, the Japanese report reiterates that a major factor in the rapid tilting of the military balance has been Mr Chen's inability to get legislation through Taiwan's parliament, the Legislative Yuan, to finance a huge procurement from the US. The deal, originally signed in 2001, had Taiwan spending $US18.8 billion on submarines, Orion submarine-hunting aircraft, Patriot anti-missile batteries and other equipment.

The Yuan, now dominated by the Kuomintang-led Pan-Blue alliance, has criticised American prices as excessive and equipment such as the refurbished Orions as inadequate.

The Kuomintang has also used the issue to further undermine Mr Chen, whom they regard as a menace to prospects of peaceful settlement with the Chinese.

This view now appears to be shared inside the Bush administration.

The likely Kuomintang candidate in the 2008 presidential race, Ma Ying-jeou, was accorded ostentatiously high-level access to administration senior officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, during a Washington visit last week.

Mr Ma is understood to have told US officials the Kuomintang would work with Mr Chen's administration to get the arms package through, though heavily trimmed to $US10 billion ($14billion).

It is understood the Patriot missile and submarine purchases would be deferred under this plan.

Source: The Australian